What Are Foreign Fighters Doing In Azerbaijan-Armenia Conflict?

Recently, a Syrian fighter who has been sent into battle with Azerbaijani forces in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh has provided information about the foreign involvement in Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia.  

So far, nearly 1,000 Syrian fighters from a private Turkish security firm have been sent to Azerbaijan. Meanwhile, Ankara has also been outspoken about their support to Azerbaijan.

This conflict is now seen as the worst fighting between the two neighbours since 1994 and confirms the rise of Turkey as a regional power.  

Till Friday, there was no sign of abating the fight as Armenia accused Azerbaijan of striking civilian infrastructure in Stepanakert which is the main city in Nagorno-Karabakh.

At the same time, Azerbaijan is also accused of targeting artillery fire at a bus carrying Russian and Armenian journalists. However, Azerbaijan rejected both the claims saying Armenia must first withdraw its troops.

Meanwhile, the presence of hostile Syrian forces in this fresh clash is enough to alarm Iran.

Speaking to the Guardian recently, several Syrian men in the country’s last opposition stronghold of Idlib province said that over the last month, military commanders and brokers who claimed to belong to Turkish security companies had offered them work in guarding observation posts and oil and gas facilities in Azerbaijan on the basis of three- or six-month contracts.

They were offered nearly 10,000 Turkish lira a month which is a huge amount of money for Syrians considering the decade of war and poverty they are facing. 

Mustafa Khalid, (not his real name) who is currently working at a post on the frontline told The Guardian, “I was hesitant to come here at the beginning because I had no idea about this country and I don’t speak the language. I knew there were skirmishes between the two countries, but I didn’t know that I was coming to war. I thought it was just guard work,” 

Though both Turkey and Azerbaijan have denied the presence of Syrians in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to reports, nearly 10,000 to 16,000 Syrians from rebel groups in the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army (SNA) umbrella have rotated on short deployments to the north African state’s desert battlefields this year. Khalid, who worked there for four months as part of a high-ranking Syrian commander’s personal guard is also a part of that group.